Thursday, April 21, 2022

REVIEW: 'The Flight Attendant' - Cassie Stalks Her New Friend Fearing the Worst in 'Mushrooms, Tasers, and Bears, Oh My!'

HBO Max's The Flight Attendant - Episode 2.02 "Mushrooms, Tasers, and Bears, Oh My!"

After revealing her secret side gig to Annie and Max, Cassie sets out to find the mystery woman who's been impersonating her, and immediately suspects enigmatic new flight attendant Grace. Meanwhile, Annie prepares for a career-changing interview at a progressive LA-based law firm. And later, Marco and Davey attend Cassie's AA meeting to celebrate her first year of sobriety.

"Mushrooms, Tasers, and Bears, Oh My!" was written by Elizabeth Benjamin & Jess Meyer and directed by Silver Tree

Cassie trusts Annie and Max completely. She will tell them every single detail about her life. Of course, it's all-consuming too. She's so caught up in her own problems that she forgets they have lives too. The friendship can't be completely one-sided. However, the biggest problem Annie and Max face is her skittishness in saying they are engaged. Max simply has to accept she is always looking for an escape. She doesn't want to leave. She loves him. She just doesn't want to feel trapped. Meanwhile, she completely bombs her job interview. She never presents as a lawyer who is actually good at the job. She was encouraged to act in an unethical way for too long. And now, she doesn't know where the line is to actually approach the profession in a moral, progressive way. It's certainly extreme. It's comical too. She interviews with an over-the-top firm that basically satirizes what people perceive progressive ideologies to be. It's not a perfect match for Annie. It's never a genuine job. Instead, it's something noteworthy for her to do without ever pulling focus from her needing to be Cassie's best friend. She provides legal advice from time to time. However, the narrative really just needs Annie and Max to be the people helping Cassie with this new investigation. They voice their concerns. Cassie doesn't listen to them. She still stalks Grace. She is certain the new flight attendant is the one who has been spying on her and pretending to be her. Of course, the true culprit is much closer to home. Those are the only perceived character details for Esteban and Gabrielle so far. The show doesn't offer an easy explanation for what they are doing. They are simply the people monitoring Cassie's life. Cassie believes she is doing that from afar as a CIA asset. She spies on her friends and family. She is meant to be targeting the person she believes is capable of murder. She witnesses Grace engage in some sketchy behavior. And yes, they are a drug dealer. That is the big reveal. They probably aren't going to be a good influence on Cassie. That's the extent of their priority in the plot. They are meant to further enflame the situation regarding Cassie's sobriety. Cassie receives a new projection of her identity in her mental palace as well. This time it's her depressive side. She is the embodiment of always fearing the worst. It's how she expects things to turn out given how dire so much has been for her. Her entire life can be summed up like that. She isn't deserving of happiness or perfection. Those may always be unobtainable goals. Of course, Cassie is self-destructive in her pursuit of those objectives nevertheless.

Cassie refuses to trust the CIA too. She doesn't have any friends there she can trust regarding this mystery. Benjamin doesn't like her. Of course, their relationship is more complex than that. He wanted to be her handler. The actual job has been much more arduous than he expected. He still plans for a debrief where Cassie can tell him everything about what happened in Berlin. That is an official setting to talk about these various details. Annie and Max are completely accepting of Cassie's version of events. She may not trust the CIA because of Dot's behavior. She may assume Benjamin is the same way. However, she ultimately blows off the meeting. Instead, it's more meaningful to stalk Grace and receive her one-year sobriety chip. In doing so, she spies on her brother. That reveals tension at home. That will provide access for him to remain a part of the narrative even though he reasonably should be back in New York with his family. Moreover, Cassie is largely ignoring the work she must continue to do to remain sober. The temptation is still present. Grace hands her a drink. Cassie doesn't correct them. It doesn't have to be awkward. Cassie still projects that onto the situation. Meanwhile, she delays writing a note to her father. That's what her sponsor is telling her to do. Brenda is so proud of what Cassie has accomplished in the program. And yet, Cassie can never truly have anonymity. Her story is public. People love talking about it. They are in awe of her. That doesn't foster a healthy and therapeutic environment. It may only set her up to make the same mistakes over and over again. Max can decipher the clues provided to the team. It still doesn't make any sense at all. The propulsive quality is still present to make this show easy to consume. However, this episode is designed around a red herring. That's necessary in this particular genre. It doesn't quite do so while evolving the characters. That's necessary too. Instead, it's all the intrigue of what's possibly going on under the surface with everyone. That's not even mentioning Megan cutting up mushrooms for some nefarious purpose while sending cryptic messages to her son and Cassie. It's meant to have more meaning. And yet, it's easy to understand Cassie's baffled reaction. People lean on her for support. She isn't quite capable of giving it. She has plenty of her own problems she is barely coping with. And then, she destroys any relationship before it gets too serious. That's still present even though she and Marco have been dating for six months.